On Thursday, a
much larger crowd than usual came to the special
meeting of the Sublette County Planning
& Zoning Commission and most left happy
with the vote, 3-1, against a zoning change to
accommodate a proposed destination resort
by the Hoback River near Bondurant.
Most were Hoback Ranches’ and Upper
Hoback homeowners who challenged many
aspects of owner Joe Ricketts’ proposed 45-
room Jackson Fork Ranch Lodge that would
shuttle guests from Jackson to the lodge.
The meeting was moved to the Lovatt
Room, where only 50 people wearing facemasks
could be seated for social distancing.
The agenda was loosened to allow citizens to
ask questions and speak their minds with reasonable
time limits, after the zoning change
request to a Recreational Services District and
resort plans were outlined.
Chairman Dennis Seipp opened the meeting
and County Planner Dennis Fornstrom
presented the Jackson Fork Ranch owner’s
request to change about 43 acres from Agricultural
to Recreational Services.
“If granted, they intend to develop a 45-
room destination resort housing 23 employees,”
he said, which would be allowed by the
new zoning. Under agriculture zoning, a guest
ranch could be allowed. Attorney Ed Wood
presented project details with owner’s agent
Morgan Fischer beside him.
“This matter has generated a lot of emotion
and fear … and I’m not quite sure why,”
Wood said. “… It certainly has upset this population.
Change is not always bad.”
He said without the resort, the entire ranch
could be subdivided into 35-acre parcels,
which would create more change than the
proposed Jackson Fork Ranch Lodge with 31
employees. Wood stated eight jobs would be
available for commuters and 23 onsite employees
would be housed in studio units not
visible from the road. The county prides itself
on being “business friendly” with economic
freedom and “freedom from excessive land
regulations,” he said.
The resort would cost about $19 million
and another $7 million for employee housing.
Impacts on services
Impacts of the resort would be “fairly
minimal” for traffic, water, environment and
county services such as fire, law enforcement
and road maintenance, Wood said.
Jorgensen and Associated Engineering
used Sublette County traffic data to estimate
average vehicle use – a peak of 150 a day –
from September and October 2018.
It estimated the resort’s traffic impact at
119 total trips per day between the employee
village and resort to Highway 191 and on the
Upper Hoback Road.
“With the addition of the resort, the forecasted
traffic volumes are expected to remain
low on the Upper Hoback Road and do not
warrant any road improvements other than
improved signage along the roadway,” the
A resident noted the numbers were during
the Roosevelt Fire – Wood said he noticed
that and Jorgensen gave Fornstrom a new report
that day, which interested parties had not
It states, “Upon further discussion with the
county, it was clarified that the data (were)
actually collected in the month of July, 2018
and not September and October” – specifically
July 28. “The analysis and conclusions
in the reports are hereby validated.”
Citizens said over and over construction
and guest traffic could severely damage the
dirt Road. Although Road and Bridge Supervisor
Billy Pape was quoted often with different
opinions, he was not present.
Fornstrom said Pape did not submit a written
report, saying whatever damages occurred.
would be repaired or rebuilt – “If it’s a county
road, it will be maintained,” he said.
Sheriff K.C. Lehr commented, saying he
did not anticipate needing more staff. Resorts
and lodges usually make “very few calls for
service” with some for search-and-rescue and
Sublette County Unified Fire Chief Shad
Cooper noted recruiting and retaining rural
volunteer firefighters is difficult and Bondurant
has a small crew. “The impact of a new
resort in the Bondurant community could create
additional requirements for emergency
At the June 25 meeting, Cooper said three
of his volunteer firefighters live in Hoback
Ranches and suggested Jackson Fork Ranch
Lodge employees could join the fire department.
The resort “should be built with fire protection
as a primary consideration,” he said.
Wyoming Game and Fish’s Brandon
Scurlock wrote, “The area … contains important
wildlife habitats, including crucial
elk and moose winter yearlong range. Elk
move through portions of the (Jackson Fork
Ranch) to the McNeel feedground each fall
and spring. The project area is located within
the Sublette mule deer migration corridor …”
He also noted potential bear problems and
migrating pronghorn. The owners collaborated
“to modify a livestock fence near the
project area to facilitate movement of biggame
animals to important seasonal ranges”
and he recommended new fences be wildlifefriendly
and seasonal stipulations close construction
from Nov. 15 to April 30.
Ranchers have summertime livestock
grazing permits on allotments surrounding
the ranch and cow camp across from the project
area. Ricketts’ property is on the north of
Upper Hoback Road and Forest Lands are on
“Ranchers are the best people to take care
of the land,” said B.J. Kominski, a summer
resident. “Jackson used to be a small tourist
in Wyoming. A real tourist trap. Now look at
it … once you build something, others will
come. You have a treasure here – don’t give it
away. Don’t change the zoning.”
Pat Burroughs lives 3 miles south of the
“Ricketts does not reside on the Upper Hoback.
Whatever happens to that land … will
never affect him in any way.”
As a neighbor, she received a letter from
him last winter outlining “a minimalist, modest-
sized resort offering cross-country skiing,
hiking, fishing, skiing and bird watching.”
She asked to see the proposed lodge’s slide
again – “That is our little bird-watching facility.
“The idea that this is a huge windfall for
Sublette County is absolutely ridiculous.”
She said when Ricketts first bought the
ranch, he invited neighbors up, gave them
“swag bags” and told them, “What we need
to do, we need to change the name from Bondurant
to Little Jackson Hole.”
She said, “He was trying to change Bondurant.
He doesn’t participate in any activities,
he doesn’t give to the fire department, or
historic activities with the Bondurant Community
Club, he doesn’t give to the church.
… We invest in the land long term; we’re in
the Bondurant Community Club; we’re firefighters.”
Melissa Harrison said the county should
do its own research to make sure the owner’s
studies are accurate. “I think we need a lot
more information before we move forward.”
She said it was unlikely any locals would
be hired – “I can count on one hand how many
people (he) has hired from Sublette County.
How many people now are from Sublette
County?” she asked. Wood and Fischer
Joy Ufford photo
More than the 50 people allowed to sit attended the June 25 Sublette County
Planning and Zoning meeting where a zone change request for a proposed
resort near the Hoback River was denied.
declined to answer.
Chris Lacinak, a volunteer firefighter, said
he and his wife Stephanie Housely fell in love
with Hoback Basin’s culture, bought a home,
brought their businesses and immediately became
involved in the community. “There are
a handful of places in the country that have
what Bondurant has. (Why) give away places
like Bondurant that are so rare?”
Dan Bailey lives on his family’s old Miller
Ranch at the end of Upper Hoback Road
asked how many letters of opposition came in.
“Sixty-four,” Fornstrom said.
“How many in support?”
“Two letters and two comments.”
Bailey advised economic benefits from
the resort “may not even happen. The guests
could turn left at the highway (to Teton
County) instead of making a right turn into
He added, “The letters people have submitted
have given adequate comments on how
this could be denied with full legal rights.”
After two hours of impassioned questions
and comments, Planning & Zoning Commissioner
Blake Greenhalgh made a motion to
approve the request. Commissioners Maike
Tan and Jim Huntley, via Skype, declined to
second it. Chairman Seipp finally seconded it.
Greenhalgh voted “aye” to approve it; the rest
voted against it.
Tan was the only to voice her feelings
about the request, citing the importance of the
county’s comprehensive plan values of “livelihood,
culture and custom. Those three words
speak to me.”
The final decision remains with the Sublette
County Board of Commissioners at its
next July 7 meeting, with discussion at 1 p.m.